Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Family Excursions

Occasionally the girls will sit next to each other, give each other a big hug, and say "take our picture!"  This was one of those moments.  

Sisters playing at the Big Kids Playground (a.k.a. Faust Park)

We played with trains at the Museum of Transportation.  Here are the girls, all ready to go!

From the Magic House...

 And our Thanksgiving dinner.  The girls were very eager to start!

The adult Whomptons ditched the kids for a day and went playing by themselves.  We did a fantastic hike along the Missouri River.  It was opening weekend of gun / deer season, which was a little nerve-racking, but we emerged unscathed.

Playing Dress-Up!

The First Day of School, Fall 2011.  Samantha was frantically busy, but she took a spare moment to jump in the picture.  It's tradition at this point for Samantha, Krystal, and Raina to take pictures together for important school events.

Spirit Day 2011.  I like that Samantha and Krystal are showing more spirit than Raina.  She'll learn :)

We didn't quite make it to the Upper School for Halloween, which is a shame because Samantha dressed as Billy Idol.  Oh well.  Settling for a black cat and Pocahontas instead.
 Here's Raina's class.

Raina and Lola, all geared up for the Halloween excursion. 

 Raina and Lola with our neighbor Susan. 

At Revathi's birthday party.  We all make decorative masks but they resisted staying on for any duration of time.  Lola was particularly proud of hers. In the end, though, she liked the sticker more.
 Eric liked it too.
 Raina's design was more colorful. 
 The girls played princess all Thanksgiving break.  This may have been the fourth or fifth costume change.

Fall Miscellaney

If the kids have been good AND Eric is feeling generous, then they will work together and transform our basement into a small-person wonderland.  Eric creates amazing forts.  Wouldn't you want to play in them too?

Lola's in time-out.  So is the big yellow bear.  As you can see, time-out doesn't really work in our house.

 Ben drove cross-country and spent some time with the Whomptons.  We played endless games of Settlers of Catan, ate copious amounts of food, and enjoyed each others' company.  He also adopted the uncle job and read lots of books to the little miss.

Raina has grown SO MUCH.  This bike was the right size back in the spring, but it's not quite right anymore.  I think she looks gigantic on it.  She doesn't mind.

Raina did a presentation to her classmates.  It was entitled "All About Me."  She drew the illustrations, wrote the captions, took the pictures, and prepared her speech.  She was incredibly proud of her poster and incredibly nervous about the presentation, so she practiced A LOT at home to get ready.  We were very proud of her and her hard work.

Lola can be a grumpy one when she gets up from nap.  Secretly, I like it because it's the only time she really cuddles with adults anymore.  I'll take what I can get.

Lola this Fall

Lola aspired to eat this triple-decker sandwich.  We pulled out a bib -- the first one in over a year.  It was merited!

Headed to the Big Kids Playground in August.  I'm sure it was 90 degrees outside, at least.  Lola was told to get her hat and she chose the one that matched her shirt.  Admittedly, she's adorable in it.

Lola rides her Big Wheel while Raina cavorts around on her bike.  Check out the active chalking as well; Lola chalks the path, driveway, garage, house, windows, and doors. 

She looks all grown up here.

Lola's in upside-down town.  Photo courtesy of Raina.

Pretending to be Raina.  She grabbed Raina's backpack and got ready for school.

It's winter and our house is back to its icebox state; therefore, footed sleepers are back!  Lola has a collection of piggy sleepy-sacks.  This one has flying piggies galore.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lola and the Potty

Lola has had modest success using the potty over the past months. When I say modest success, I mean we harass her constantly to go use the potty and need to sit in the bathroom with her for large amounts of time. This time is spent trying to encourage the magic moment which is usually an anti-climatic brief spray of urine that is all in all ineffective at emptying her bladder. Lola fared a bit better at day care, but her daily reports were a mixed bag of success as well.

So as you can imagine, Krystal and I were a bit skeptical when day care decided that it was time to switch Lola to underwear full time at day care (other than a pull up for nap time). We took lot of pants and underwears in preparation for an explosion of laundry. I dreaded those first few batches of mystery clothing filled plastic bags that were oddly heavy for their size - never knowing when a poopy mess was going to assault your fingers. Ultimately I was confident that the experiment would be an unmitigated disaster and day care would roll back their decision.

Well the first few days resulted in numerous pants coming home, and it was a struggle to keep her cubby stocked. To day care's credit, it has clearly been an effective strategy as in a few short weeks she progressed from "modest success" to peeing exclusively on the potty with essentially no accidents. So yea! So we are all set with the "modest" exception of . . . feces.

We simply assumed at first that day care was taking care of any needed number 2 incidents. While no surprises were appearing in the bags of mystery, we knew Lola was wearing a pull up at quiet time, so that could easily account for it. But nearing the end of the week, aided by some awkward interrogation of the day care workers, the horrifying truth was revealed: Lola hadn't pooped all week. Lola had never pooped on the potty before, and had shown little interest in it, so we knew that was going to be the largest challenge. We naturally figured that she would take advantage of pull up times at first (over night and at nap). We didn't imagine that she would just . . . stop.

Obviously this wasn't sustainable. We encouraged her to poop all day saturday on the potty and even adjusted our schedule to ensure we were around the house for it. Finally, Lola announced the solution, "I need a pull up". Our attempts to convince here that what she really needed was the potty were futile, so we eventually gave in. She put on her pull up and rapidly took care of her business.

So that is pretty much how it has been for the past week. "I need a pull up" is synonymous with "I need to poop". Tonight, when she requested her pull up, we asked her to sit on the potty while wearing a diaper per suggestions on the internets. (Apparently this is some kind of bridge) She refused and chose to stand next to the dining room table where her mom and dad were working (which has been a common configuration for mom and dad lately, but that is a different story). Presumably holding onto the side of the table with a slight lean over provided her optimum positioning. She grunted with effort as she tried to expunge 3 days worth of material. Krystal asked if she was done pooping and the response was "no" followed by a cute and shy slink just below the table ledge. Krystal and I giggled a bit with as much restraint as we could muster in response because someone a long time ago taught humanity that watching someone boldly pass feces in front of you is funny. Lola responded in an oddly aware (for her) fashion "Don't laugh at me". Which of course made it even harder to contain our giggles. Oh well, at least she got it done.

Anywho. Potty training is hard. I wouldn't trade current state for any time from earlier, but it will be very nice when we fully transitioned.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lola Sleeps, Round Five

Lola has had a disastrous history regarding sleep and it took a sleep specialist and a crib tent to fix her 1.25 years ago.  Because Lola's sleeping patterns fell apart on our last trip, July 2010, the Whompton adults declared a moratorium on Lola travel; we stayed home for Thanksgiving and winter holidays and did not vacation over the summer.  The risk of breaking Lola's sleep was just not worth it.

At some point, though, we have to trust that Lola will be okay in a new environment.  We decided to travel over this winter break, December 2011, to Nashville.  We'll stay with Eric's parents for an extended period of time and hope for the best. 

They have a crib but, honestly, we're petrified at the thought of her sleeping in it.  We imprisioned her in a crib tent because she could climb out at 1.5 years and no one was ready for her to be in a toddler bed.  Lola at 2.75 years-old easily could climb out of the crib and hurt herself or cause mayhem or ....  With Lola, the possibilities are endless.  So we've practiced over the last month, and she's slept on a cot on the floor.  Getting her to go to sleep is a lot harder; she doesn't leave the room, but she does stay up multiple hours reading books and singing to herself.  She also has a night-light requirement and she throws a fit if her nightlight is not working.  (It's hard to read books all night if the lights are out.)

We're leaving for Nashville this weekend, and I'm feeling optimistic about Lola's sleep and our surviving the weekend intact.  Cross your fingers for us!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Raina Responses

In computer class, Raina responds to an "I verb" prompt, writes a sentence, and computer illustrates her mini-story.  Some of them have been particularly adorable.  For instance,

I like Lola.  (my personal favorite, it made me cry)
I can help my mom cook.
I wonder when I can do magic.
I pretend to be a dog.

The illustrations are a lot of blue-eyed or green-eyed stick figures wearing triangular shaped dresses, all smiling and often holding hands. 

"I pretend to be a dog" is particularly cute, because 2 year-old Raina pretended to be a dog all the time.  We called her Raina Dog, she had her own collar, and she loved to play fetch with a few chew toys.  We hadn't seen Raina Dog in a long time, but since that posting Raina Dog has reemerged and SHE LIKES TO CLEAN THE HOUSE!  Raina Dog is very obedient and is great to have around. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tooth Fairy Gift List

Raina has experimented with various tooth placements to determine if the item she receives from the Tooth Fairy is dependent on where she leaves the tooth overnight.  So far, when Raina has left the tooth next to her bed a large item has appeared in its place:  recorder and music book, blow-up bouncy balloon, glow-in-the-dark stars and planets (and some other things that I don't remember).  She's placed her tooth under the pillow one time and in that instance she received a dollar.  Raina's working theory is that the Tooth Fairy cannot put a large item under the pillow (because then Raina would wake up) so that only money items go there.

She was eager to test her theory this week because Raina pulled out her own tooth Wednesday morning.  We put it in the requisite baggie, she proudly showed it off to Lola for a while, and she played with the tooth. 

Thursday morning, Raina woke up to discover that the Tooth Fairy had not come because Raina had not put her tooth under the pillow or next to her bed.  Raina was frantic and she spent a considerable amount of time trying to find where she had left her tooth so that the TF could come Thursday night.  She never found it.

As a consolation prize, we said that Daddy would give her some money and, if the tooth turned up, then Daddy would put it under his pillow and get some money.  (Eric's still hoping to get his dollar back.)  Raina was somewhat disappointed in this plan.  First, money from Daddy doesn't have the same allure as money from the TF.  Second, Raina was hopeful that the TF would give her a larger denomination than a dollar.  In fact, I heard her suggest $20 to Eric, who politely scoffed at her and gave her a buck.

Raina, the planner, decided that having a contingency plan would be a good idea.  She grabbed some paper and created a list.  Here it is, misspellings and all.

Things I want for a lost tooth
Big uoonacron pilo pet (big unicorn pillow pet)
lots of muny
a good life

I hope the Tooth Fairy brings her the last one.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Unconditional Parenting

Earlier in the summer I read the book Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.  Kohn wrote a book about the downfalls of homework, which was interesting, so I thought his parenting book would be up my alley.  Also, I have been incredibly short with Raina and I realized that having new parenting tools in my toolkit could only be an asset.
Kohn criticizes most parenting books because they embrace, what he calls "conditional parenting" or what I call "love with a lot of baggage."  He lumps spanking and praise into the same harmful category; the first because physically hurting someone you love is inappropriate and the second because "good job" praise or reward stickers or its ilk hamper intrinsic motivation.  He spends a lot of time pressing this point, which is also argued in Daniel Pink's Drive, because so much of modern parenting has become a continuous negotiation of parents versus child.  At least my household is in a constant state of negotiation, which initially I liked but now (three years later) realize I fully despise.
Unconditional parenting is about unconditional love and allowing children control and agency and trusting them to make decisions and recognizing that adult's unfair and unrealistic expectations are the adult's problem and not the child's fault when the kid cannot meet those developmentally inappropriate goals.

Some of my take-aways:
I have to stop telling my daughter to say she's sorry when she's really not.  Teaching her to lie does not teach her empathy.

Expecting my child to act older than she is sets us all up for failure.

Control is key, and my kids deserve more of a vote about their lives and what happens in it.  Some of that is as simple as letting them pick out the daily outfit (which means Lola wears the same three shirts, sometimes in the same day!).  During our stay-at-home time, Raina and I made a list of things we really wanted to do that day and we each contributed half of the items.  Those days were exceptionally easy in terms of parenting because Raina 1) had bought in to the day and 2) she knew that pretty soon we'd be doing something she really wanted to do. 

Finally, we need to pick our battles and say no when it really matters, rather than all the time.  This one is hard -- "no" has become a rather common word in my house -- so we'll be working on this one a while.

Little Miss (We Hope Will Be) Independent

Raina's reaction to new experiences is to hesitate, clutch a parent, and sometimes cry and refuse to engage. Numerous times we signed Raina up for some activity and then spent the whole time convincing her to try it. (With t-ball we utterly failed.) Over time we have pieced a process together that enables some amount of success: 1) anticipate all the possible things that would happen, 2) give Raina lots of advance notice of these possibilities, 3) offer an "if - then" bribe, and 4) talk up her bravery.

The buzzword of Raina's first grade classroom is "independently" and I've heard Raina refer to it a few times now.  Maybe this year she'll be more willing to try these things independently.


How will Raina cope with death?

Eric is in a band, the Meteor Pilots, with a hilarious man named Gary.  Soon after Lola was born, Raina started to accompany Eric to his weekly band practice.  She would listen to the music, wander around, and play with LaVerne (Gary's wife).  Gary and LaVerne are in their mid-50's and thoroughly enjoy their weekly allotment of Raina time.

Gary and LaVerne had an adorable dog named DiMaggio and Raina loved on him frequently.  Sadly, DiMaggio passed away.  Raina has talked about death before and she knows that it is upsetting to others, but she's never known anyone who has passed away.  I really have no idea how she will react when we tell her.

post-note:  Raina seemed totally fine.  She's asked a fair number of questions, and we talked for a little bit, but the shock for which I was mentally preparing never materialized.

My Do It!

Lola officially has arrived at the independence stage of two-year-old development.  I have not-so-fond memories of Raina at this age:  meltdowns and screaming "MYSELF!" until we left her alone to figure it out solo.  Lola's phrase is "My do it!" and she shouts it with more forceful insistence the more we try to help her.  She has plenty of gumption -- who else would grab the step stool from the kitchen and carry it to the opposite end of the house just so she could turn on a lightswitch? -- but it is incredibly time-consuming and it wears me out.  I just have to remind myself to ask her before I do anything and to budget in an extra 5 minutes for every event. 

The flip-side is that Lola is determined to do everything that everyone else can do and she perserveres. Today the family did a 2+ mile hike with plenty of steep hills and Lola took it like the champ she is.  She only needed real help for about 15 seconds of effort.  Fantastic!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Yesterday I was putting together a (new to us) play kitchen and Raina was continuously underfoot and commenting on every move I made.  It drove me crazy, which resulted in this conversation.

KSW:  Raina, go away.
Raina:  Why???
KSW:  I cannot stand your backseat-driving me.  Please stop. 
Raina:  I'm not backseat driving, Mom, I'm SUPERVISING.  And, honestly, you're not doing a very good job.
KSW:  Ugh.  Go away, Raina.

I thought it quite funny that she embraced the supervisor mentality so completely :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Developmentally Appropriate

"Developmentally appropriate" is a phrase used a lot in my school and the meaning is straight-forward:  challenge students with skills and concepts that match up with the child's intellectual ability, emotional maturity, and abstract-thinking level.  Making a concept too hard or too easy is just frustrating for everyone involved; hitting the developmentally appropriate sweet-spot is the aspiration for teachers.

This is something I've kept in mind as a parent.  For the past two years, I fended off our pediatrician's statements that my kid should know how to swim.  I encouraged my kid to bike with training wheels as long as she wanted, I kept buying her velcro shoes so she wouldn't have to tie them and elastic-waist skorts so that she didn't have to manipulate snaps and buttons.  Raina's fine motor dexterity wasn't ready for anything complicated and her gross motor skills have come along slowly.  (She's cursed with my complete lack of balance and muscle strength.)

However, when Raina had the background skills, maturity, and confidence, she learned each skill in a matter of minutes.  One swim lesson.  10 minutes on a bike without training wheels.  3 minutes to learn to tie shoes.  Waiting until the situation was developmentally appropriate for her has paid off handsomely.

Little Lola is very bright, she has a good memory, she makes connections, she's athletic, and she's physically large for her age.  Daycare keeps advancing her into the next older group because that's developmentally appropriate for her.  Fortunately / unfortunately, she's being promoted to the three years-old room in a few weeks, even though she won't even be two-and-a-half.  She's ready for everything EXCEPT for the potty training.  She just isn't there yet and we have been pushing her because that is what daycare wants, regardless that it clearly isn't developmentally appropriate for her yet.  Needless to say, it has been a trial for her and us, and I am hopeful that it just clicks for her in the next few weeks. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Raina

Lola started using possessive pronouns a long while ago, saying things like my cup, my shoe, my book, my mommy, my daddy.  Heard most often from her now is "my Raina." 

Lola wakes up from her naps and asks "Where is my Raina?"  Or when she's feeling sad and pitiful, which happened a lot today because she's sick, Lola cries "I want my Raina!" 

I think it's adorable that she has claimed her big sister as her own.  It's an extra-special and sweet way to show she loves Raina very much.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Parenting Ecstasy

Raina and I are driving to daycare to pick up Lola.  I've been singing and Raina has been reading and we haven't communicated at all during the 20 minutes.  Feeling a tad bit guilty, I try "Reading is wonderful, isn't it?"  (Raina is reading chapter books and she is beyond thrilled about it.) 

Her response is all fervor:  "YES!  It's AWESOME!"  And for about 10 seconds we bask in the warm glow of knowing how to read and enjoying books so much.  Then she says, "That's enough talking.  I need to get back to my book!" 
Hysterical, and pretty much how I feel when I'm reading a good book too.  I loved hearing this from my daughter. 

Raina and I arrive at daycare and we examine Lola's pottying chart.  Usually it's a log of "attempts to use the potty" without actual success.  Today, though, had FOUR different pee-on-the-potty instances!  FOUR!  Lola was exceptionally proud of herself, as she should be, and I had visions of being free of diapers.  What a glorious gift that would be. 
All in all, it was a wonderful five minutes as a parent.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Raina reflects.

Since turning six, Raina has amassed all sorts of impressive achievements.  She can read short chapter books.  She can ride her bike without training wheels.  She can swim the length of the pool and back without assistance. I was thinking of all these things while in the car with her today and I asked her "what have you learned that makes you the most proud of yourself?"  She thought for a bit and then responded "I'm learning to be a good person and big sister."  It melted my heart.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Whomptons Celebrate Independence!

The Whomptons believe in cramming all sorts of family fun into each weekend, and Independence Day weekend was no exception.  We were fortunate to include all sorts of extended family into our play.

On Friday, we found out that Eric's parents would be joining us for the weekend.  Friday night saw us gallivanting off to Weekends Only to acquire a mattress for the bonus room.  Yes, Samantha's room has been vacant since late March.  We had done nothing to it since then; occasionally the girls played in there, but that was the extent of our involvement with that corner of the house.  Needless to say, it was time to make the bonus room into a semblance of a guest room again.  We lucked out, found a nice bed, and they agreed to deliver the next day.  Woohoo!

Saturday saw us furiously cleaning.  (Did I mention the in-laws were coming?)  Everything got the standard scrub, and the bonus room received lots of attention.  Roxanne had lived in that room too and she left behind a fair amount of her hair.  Everywhere.  Walls and baseboards and carpets were cleaned multiple times until I considered it passable and then we set up the bed. 

We had a bookcase in that room which we moved out into the living space.  I had purged a fair number of books earlier in the year, so we didn't actually have enough books lying around to fill it.  Then we realized that Whomptons don't fill bookcases with books; we fill them with board games!  Now our adult board games are featured prominently in the downstairs living room.  It's awesome.  We weren't able to fill the bookcase completely, but yesterday's Groupon scored us $50 of board game store loot for $10 so we're optimistic about the future.

Moving board games downstairs freed up some space in the dining room bookcase so I decided to pull out all the framed pictures.  (The pictures had been boxed when Raina arrived and really haven't emerged since then.)  It was wonderful to pull them out and reminisce about high school, college, our wedding, and the early Raina days.  We quickly realized that we have no framed pictures of Lola; it's time to start printing off the digital photos! 

Saturday night, Gary and LaVerne came over and watched the girls while Eric and I celebrated birthdays and anniversary with the Williamson clan.  While there, Samantha realized the best time to hang out with us was before the Comptons arrived, so she came over bright and early Sunday morning.  We were game-playing by 9 am!  Raina also started teaching Lola how to play basic board games like CandyLand and Snorta.  We soon will induct Lola into our game-playing coven :)

The Comptons arrived Sunday afternoon; we had dinner, plenty of cuddle and play time, and the Whompton adults went bowling for the first time in ages.  Our scores were predictably terrible and will not be shared here.

Mama Jo cuddled with the girls before bedtime Sunday night.  
 Mama Jo and Raina have bad habits of closing their eyes at just the wrong time.  This one is almost perfect.

Everyone slept in on Monday morning and we greeted the day with good cheer.

Then we headed out to the Magic House.  We have taken Raina to the Magic House oodles of times but this was Lola's and the Comptons' first go.  It was a blast.  The girls charged up Jack's Beanstalk and climbed up and down multiple times before the mob arrived.  At times Lola was hesitant about her next move, but Raina took her big sister job seriously and helped Lola along. 

I wanted to hang out in the "old" Magic House parts so we ushered the kids that direction.  Slides and climbing structures and whole rooms with balls and magnets and air tunnels -- the place is incredibly fun.  We had great photo opportunities with the electrostatic generator.
 This picture is only of Raina's bangs.  Wow.  That kid has a lot of hair.
Then we ventured out into the garden.  The girls were appropriately fascinated with the boats.

The Magic House addition is for more mature audiences, I think, as it has a significant emphasis on literacy, mystery decoding, and government.  We played around in the Oval Office, sang patriotic songs in the Congress (and drove out the other patrons from the room!), and played in the court.  Raina and Lola took turns being the judge and the adults were happy to sit quietly in the jury box.

We concluded our venture in the construction zone.  The girls gleefully shoveled and dumped rocks.

Lola discovered a broom and dustpan set, which occupied her for a goodly amount of time.  She really loves to sweep.  She kept trying to put the set away in its proper home but the brooms alternated in falling over and hitting her in the head.  She eventually gave up and carried the broom over into the white shower space and ditched it there.

Everyone was so worn out from the Magic House that sleep overtook us all in the afternoon.  Only Eric resisted its siren song.  We took family photos, ate lots of tasty food, and played Apples to Apples.  All in all, a lovely three-days weekend!